ISLAMABAD: Investigations into Salman Haider’s disappearance so far have revealed that a Toyota Surf vehicle, which is thought to have been following the activist before he went missing, had a fake number plate, police officials said on Friday.
According to them, the vehicle which may have been used by Haider’s abductors was last seen heading towards Rawalpindi from Koral Chowk. “Due to ongoing construction work on the Koral Chowk flyover, only one Safe City camera was able to capture footage of the suspected vehicle as it headed for Rawalpindi,” a police official said.
Police investigators are also analysing Haider’s cellphone record, officials said. “His mobile phone record showed his last location at Kak Pul on Islamabad Expressway,” an official said.
Police say they are investigating the case from various angles but have found no clue yet. “We are working on the case but there is nothing I can tell you at this moment,” another police officer told The Express Tribune.
An investigation team comprising two SPs and a DSP is working on the case. But curiously enough, SP Investigation Muhammad Ilyas, who is heading the investigation team, is on leave till January 17. Police, however, say that the team leader’s absence has not impacted the investigation.
Haider, a lecturer at the Rawalpindi’s Fatima Jinnah Women University and a rights activist, has been missing since the evening of December 6. Before his mobile phone was switched off, he texted his wife and told her that his car was parked near the Korang Town Chowk on Islamabad Expressway. He told his wife to collect the car from there as he was going for some necessary work. Later, his mobile phone was found switched off. An alleged kidnapping case was registered at Lohi Bher police station the next day.
Haider’s brother Zeeshan Haider says though the police have been cooperative with the family they have not come up with anything concrete. “There has been no clear line of action and the cooperation has been limited to assurances only,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2017.
In Pakistan, a new generation of activists has emerged from the shadows of 9/11, subsequent wave of wars and atrocities, and the Lawyers’ Movement of 2007.
Progressive in beliefs, liberal in ideas, politically conscious, averse to religious fundamentalism; they are often mocked as ‘liberal fascists’, ‘mombatti mafia’, and ‘anti-state seculars’.
Outnumbered by their opponents, they have managed to keep the debates about modernity, place of religion in the public sphere, role of state in combating terrorism, and widespread misogyny in the society alive on social-media and have significantly influenced public discourse in the last few years.
La poésie est dans la rue – Poetry is in the streets – was a slogan raised by revolutionary students during the May 1968 revolt in Paris. The people of the Subcontinent have always spoken against power, corruption and injustices through poetry, and the gallant tradition of the poem has been passed down to our generation in the same undaunted spirit for which it is famous. Kafir Kafir is one such poem, and it was written by Salman Haider.
Salman Haider is missing since Friday night. He is an academic, a poet, and a human rights activist. Above all, he is a kind soul, restless and perturbed by the state of our society.
He could be heard and read at any occasion. From Shia killings to the APS massacre, from attacks on the Hazara community to the plight of missing persons in Balochistan, he was the voice of the voiceless, the armour of the defenceless. He was a rare voice of resistance marching through the barricades, tearing apart heaps of lies. He expressed the anger, concern, and all the other feelings that made us stand in solidarity with the oppressed.
There is something fundamentally wrong when open incitement to violence is permitted but sane voices are not tolerated. That we had to switch from hashtag #ArrestAbdulAziz to #RecoverSalmanHaider speaks volumes about the resolve of the state to root out terrorism.
That a proscribed group holds rallies in the heart of the capital while an enlightened activist disappears from the same city points to the shortcomings of the government. And this is exactly what Salman Haider was most critical of.
When violence is tolerated and dissent is crushed, rest assured that it’s not the pen but the gun that would write the future.
That a man speaking up for missing persons would himself go missing one day is not that surprising after all.
Truth comes with a heavy price. There might not be many who chose to ignore the dangers, but the ones who do are not only related to each other in heart and mind, but are also joined by their comrades in prisons and torture cells.
When Salman Haider spoke up for the missing persons, he may have known that that could be viewed as crossing some lines.
Thus he wrote yet another poem that I will not dare translate:
Abhi mere doston ke dost laa-pata ho rahay hein
Phir merey doston ki baari hai
Aur uske baad main
Woh file banun ga
Jisey mera baap adalat le ker jaye ga…
By the time you read these lines, the reasons behind his mysterious disappearance might still be unclear, similar to the countless souls gone missing in recent years. There might still be deliberate confusion as to the real motives of the people who took him away. And if poetry is going to be a crime here, the poem shall resist and fight until the safe return of Salman Haider and others like him.
A couple of years ago, when Coldplay’s Chris Martin was going through a divorce from the actress Gwyneth Paltrow and feeling down, a friend gave him a book to lift his spirits. It was a collection of poetry by Jalaluddin Rumi, the thirteenth-century Persian poet, translated by Coleman Barks. “It kind of changed my life,” Martin said later, in an interview. A track from Coldplay’s most recent album features Barks reciting one of the poems: “This being human is a guest house / Every morning a new arrival / A joy, a depression, a meanness, / some momentary awareness comes / as an unexpected visitor.”
Rumi has helped the spiritual journeys of other celebrities—Madonna, Tilda Swinton—some of whom similarly incorporated his work into theirs. Aphorisms attributed to Rumi circulate daily on social media, offering motivation. “If you are irritated by every rub, how will you ever get polished,” one of them goes. Or, “Every moment I shape my destiny with a chisel. I am a carpenter of my own soul.” Barks’s translations, in particular, are shared widely on the Internet; they are also the ones that line American bookstore shelves and are recited at weddings. Rumi is often described as the best-selling poet in the United States. He is typically referred to as a mystic, a saint, a Sufi, an enlightened man. Curiously, however, although he was a lifelong scholar of the Koran and Islam, he is less frequently described as a Muslim.
The words that Martin featured on his album come from Rumi’s “Masnavi,” a six-book epic poem that he wrote toward the end of his life. Its fifty thousand lines are mostly in Persian, but they are riddled with Arabic excerpts from Muslim scripture; the book frequently alludes to Koranic anecdotes that offer moral lessons. (The work, which some scholars consider unfinished, has been nicknamed the Persian Koran.) Fatemeh Keshavarz, a professor of Persian studies at the University of Maryland, told me that Rumi probably had the Koran memorized, given how often he drew from it in his poetry. Rumi himself described the “Masnavi” as “the roots of the roots of the roots of religion”—meaning Islam—“and the explainer of the Koran.” And yet little trace of the religion exists in the translations that sell so well in the United States. “The Rumi that people love is very beautiful in English, and the price you pay is to cut the culture and religion,” Jawid Mojaddedi, a scholar of early Sufism at Rutgers, told me recently.
Rumi was born in the early thirteenth century, in what is now Afghanistan. He later settled in Konya, in present-day Turkey, with his family. His father was a preacher and religious scholar, and he introduced Rumi to Sufism. Rumi continued his theological education in Syria, where he studied the more traditional legal codes of Sunni Islam, and later returned to Konya as a seminary teacher. It was there that he met an elder traveller, Shams-i-Tabriz, who became his mentor. The nature of the intimate friendship between the two is much debated, but Shams, everyone agrees, had a lasting influence on Rumi’s religious practice and his poetry. In a new biography of Rumi, “Rumi’s Secret,” Brad Gooch describes how Shams pushed Rumi to question his scriptural education, debating Koranic passages with him and emphasizing the idea of devotion as finding oneness with God. Rumi would come to blend the intuitive love for God that he found in Sufism with the legal codes of Sunni Islam and the mystical thought he learned from Shams.
This unusual tapestry of influences set Rumi apart from many of his contemporaries, Keshavarz told me. Still, Rumi built a large following in cosmopolitan Konya, incorporating Sufis, Muslim literalists and theologians, Christians, and Jews, as well as the local Sunni Seljuk rulers. In “Rumi’s Secret,” Gooch helpfully chronicles the political events and religious education that influenced Rumi. “Rumi was born into a religious family and followed the proscribed rules of daily prayer and fasting throughout his entire life,” Gooch writes. Even in Gooch’s book, though, there is a tension between these facts and the desire to conclude that Rumi, in some sense, transcended his background—that, as Gooch puts it, he “made claims for a ‘religion of love’ that went beyond all organized faiths.” What can get lost in such readings is the extent to which Rumi’s Muslim teaching shaped even those ideas. As Mojadeddi notes, the Koran acknowledges Christians and Jews as “people of the book,” offering a starting point toward universalism. “The universality that many revere in Rumi today comes from his Muslim context.”
The erasure of Islam from Rumi’s poetry started long before Coldplay got involved. Omid Safi, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at Duke University, says that it was in the Victorian period that readers in the West began to uncouple mystical poetry from its Islamic roots. Translators and theologians of the time could not reconcile their ideas about a “desert religion,” with its unusual moral and legal codes, and the work of poets like Rumi and Hafez. The explanation they settled on, Safi told me, was “that these people are mystical not because of Islam but in spite of it.” This was a time when Muslims were singled out for legal discrimination—a law from 1790 curtailed the number of Muslims who could come into the United States, and a century later the U.S. Supreme Court described the “intense hostility of the people of Moslem faith to all other sects, and particularly to Christians.” In 1898, in the introduction to his translation of the “Masnavi,” Sir James Redhouse wrote, “The Masnavi addresses those who leave the world, try to know and be with God, efface their selves and devote themselves to spiritual contemplation.” For those in the West, Rumi and Islam were separated.
In the twentieth century, a succession of prominent translators—among them R. A. Nicholson, A. J. Arberry, and Annemarie Schimmel—strengthened Rumi’s presence in the English-language canon. But it’s Barks who vastly expanded Rumi’s readership. He is not a translator so much as an interpreter: he does not read or write Persian. Instead, he transforms nineteenth-century translations into American verse.
It’s verse of a very particular kind. Barks was born in 1937 and grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He received his Ph.D. in English literature and published his first book of poetry, “The Juice,” in 1971. The first time he heard of Rumi was later that decade, when another poet, Robert Bly, handed him a copy of translations by Arberry and told him that they had to be “released from their cages”—that is, put into American free verse. (Bly, who has published poetry inThe New Yorker for more than thirty years—and whose book “Iron John: A Book About Men,” from 1990, greatly informed the modern men’s movement—later translated some of Rumi’s poems himself.) Barks had never studied Islamic literature. But soon afterward, he told me recently, over the phone from his home in Georgia, he had a dream. In the dream, he was sleeping on a cliff near a river. A stranger appeared in a circle of light and said, “I love you.” Barks had not seen this man before, but he met him the following year, at a Sufi order near Philadelphia. The man was the order’s leader. Barks began spending his afternoons studying and rephrasing the Victorian translations that Bly had given him. Since then, he has published more than a dozen Rumi books.
In our conversation, Barks described Rumi’s poetry as “the mystery of opening the heart,” a thing that, he told me, “you can’t say in language.” In order to get at that inexpressible thing, he has taken some liberties with Rumi’s work. For one thing, he has minimized references to Islam. Consider the famous poem “Like This.” Arberry translates one of its lines, rather faithfully, as “Whoever asks you about the Houris, show (your) face (and say) ‘Like this.’ ” Houris are virgins promised in Paradise in Islam. Barks avoids even the literal translation of that word; in his version, the line becomes, “If anyone asks you how the perfect satisfaction of all our sexual wanting will look, lift your face and say, Like this.” The religious context is gone. And yet, elsewhere in the same poem, Barks keeps references to Jesus and Joseph. When I asked him about this, he told me that he couldn’t recall if he had made a deliberate choice to remove Islamic references. “I was brought up Presbyterian,” he said. “I used to memorize Bible verses, and I know the New Testament more than I know the Koran.” He added, “The Koran is hard to read.”
Like many others, Omid Safi credits Barks with introducing Rumi to millions of readers in the United States; in morphing Rumi into American verse, Barks has dedicated considerable time and love to the poet’s works and life. And there are other versions of Rumi that are even further removed from the original—such as the New Age books by Deepak Chopra and Daniel Ladinsky which are marketed and sold as Rumi but bear little resemblance to the poet’s writing. Chopra, an author of spiritual works and an alternative-medicine enthusiast, admits that his poems are not Rumi’s words. Rather, as he writes in the introduction to “The Love Poems of Rumi,” they are “ ‘moods’ we have captured as certain phrases radiated from the original Farsi, giving life to a new creation but retaining the essence of its source.”
Discussing these New Age “translations,” Safi said, “I see a type of ‘spiritual colonialism’ at work here: bypassing, erasing, and occupying a spiritual landscape that has been lived and breathed and internalized by Muslims from Bosnia and Istanbul to Konya and Iran to Central and South Asia.” Extracting the spiritual from the religious context has deep reverberations. Islam is regularly diagnosed as a “cancer,” including by General Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for national-security adviser, and, even today, policymakers suggestthat non-Western and nonwhite groups have not contributed to civilization.
For his part, Barks sees religion as secondary to the essence of Rumi. “Religion is such a point of contention for the world,” he told me. “I got my truth and you got your truth—this is just absurd. We’re all in this together and I’m trying to open my heart, and Rumi’s poetry helps with that.” One might detect in this philosophy something of Rumi’s own approach to poetry: Rumi often amended texts from the Koran so that they would fit the lyrical rhyme and meter of the Persian verse. But while Rumi’s Persian readers would recognize the tactic, most American readers are unaware of the Islamic blueprint. Safi has compared reading Rumi without the Koran to reading Milton without the Bible: even if Rumi was heterodox, it’s important to recognize that he was heterodox in a Muslim context—and that Islamic culture, centuries ago, had room for such heterodoxy. Rumi’s works are not just layered with religion; they represent the historical dynamism within Islamic scholarship.
Rumi used the Koran, Hadiths, and religion in an explorative way, often challenging conventional readings. One of Barks’s popular renditions goes like this: “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. / I will meet you there.” The original version makes no mention of “rightdoing” or “wrongdoing.” The words Rumi wrote were iman (“religion”) and kufr (“infidelity”). Imagine, then, a Muslim scholar saying that the basis of faith lies not in religious code but in an elevated space of compassion and love. What we, and perhaps many Muslim clerics, might consider radical today is an interpretation that Rumi put forward four hundred years ago.
Such readings were not entirely unique back then. Rumi’s works reflected a broader push and pull between religious spirituality and institutionalized faith—though with a wit that was unmatched. “Historically speaking, no text has shaped the imagination of Muslims—other than the Koran—as the poetry of Rumi and Hafez,” Safi said. This is why Rumi’s voluminous writings, produced at a time when scribes had to copy works by hand, have survived.
“Language isn’t just a means of communication,” the writer and translator Sinan Antoon has said. “It’s a reservoir of memory, tradition, and heritage.” As conduits between two cultures, translators take on an inherently political project. They must figure out how to make, for instance, a thirteenth-century Persian poet comprehensible to a contemporary American audience. But they have a responsibility to remain true to the original work—an act that, in the case of Rumi, would help readers to recognize that a professor of Sharia could also write some of the world’s mostly widely read love poetry.
Jawid Mojaddedi is now in the midst of a years-long project to translate all six books of the “Masnavi.” Threeofthem have been published; the fourth is due out this spring. His translations acknowledge the Islamic and Koranic texts in the original by using italics to denote whenever Rumi switches to Arabic. His books are also riddled with footnotes. Reading them requires some effort, and perhaps a desire to see beyond one’s preconceptions. That, after all, is the point of translation: to understand the foreign. As Keshavarz put it, translation is a reminder that “everything has a form, everything has culture and history. A Muslim can be like that, too.”
As the fest season in DU approaches, one of the most discussed topics on campus is the celeb performers being invited to perform in various colleges. While co-ed colleges are in the process of deciding who to call, most girls colleges in DU are clear about who not to call for the fest season. Student union members in most girls colleges have taken a conscious call to not invite artists whose songs’ lyrics are derogatory towards women. Artists who ‘objectify women and make sexist comments in their songs’ are not being invited, they say. “What is the point in protesting for women’s rights if we are entertained by songs which say I swear chhoti dress mein bomb lagdi mennu?” asks Samridhi Bajaj, general secretary of the students’ union, Miranda House.
The lyrics are abusive, offensive and demeaning, we do not stand for any of this’
The student union members of girls colleges say that they do not even consider these artists for their fests. “We are trying to propagate the ideas of feminism and equality, while these artists are using their art form to demean women. The lyrics of songs like Brown Rang and Saturday Saturday are offensive, abusive and completely opposite of what we are taught in college. In these songs, women are mere objects obsessed with makeup, shopping and partying, so we can’t think of calling these artists for obvious reasons,” says Smitha Sabu, treasurer of students’ union of Lady Shri Ram College for Women.
Raavi Jotwani, vice president of the Jesus and Mary College students union, adds, “Lyrics like Manne suna hai tu twenty plus ho gayi and Yahaan sari dance dikhari hai, gori kamar hilari hai (Party by Fazilpuria), are sexist and offensive and we are not trying to promote that culture. We prefer a female artist who believes in ideas like ours and who can understand us better than someone who tears us apart in our own college on our fest. We are taught that women should be confident, competent and compassionate and the lyrics of these artists are completely opposite so they are a big ‘No’ for our fests.”
‘Can’t preach women empowerment in classes and practice women objectification during fests’
The songs might be big hits but that is not even a factor being considered. Student union members usually invite artists depending on their popularity, but this consideration takes a back seat with artists who have offensive lyrics. “How can you call a woman ‘bomb’? We do not even consider artists like Honey Singh, Badshahand other Punjabi singers for our fests. This is not a joke, you cannot laugh about it. We are always cautious during our selection of artists,” says Garima Tandon, president of the students’ union of Gargi college.
Komal Priya Singh, president of Kamala Nehru College (KNC) adds, “We wanted to call Benny Dayal last year for our fest. Our teachers asked us about his songs, and when we told them that he has sung Badtameez Dil. They asked, ‘What is this song? Do you want to give this message to all those who come for your fest?’ When our teachers do not approve of ‘Badtameez Dil’, songs objectifying women are out of the question. Plus, our fest has a social message attached to it, so how can we talk about women empowerment when we are promoting women objectification through these acts?”
Indeep Bakshi (left) and Badshah are the artists behind the song ‘Saturday Saturday’
“An ocean of blood churns around me-
Alas! Were these all!
The future will show
what more remains for me to see”
Once an orthodox Muslim, asked him why he accepted sweets from Hindus on their, Diwali. He replied asking, if sweets themselves have any specific faiths? Barfi is barfi and it is sweet in taste, likewise jalebi, leaving the old man speechless. To write about his poetry is a generation long process but his wit (hazir jawaabi), humour, normal conversations and the way he lead his life is itself poetic. He was poetry in motion himself.
The epitome of Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, a symbol of pluralism – well that was Ghalib for me. Mirza may not be an ‘Auliya’ (a saint) or the reviver of faith, but his poetry and philosophies were nothing less than soul healers. “Main koshish karta hoon ke koi aisi baat likhoon, jo padhe khush ho jaaye;” Ghalib wrote in one of his famous letters.
I think creativity which cannot bring a smile to the faces of people is of no avail and Ghalib’s poetry was like service to the mankind and humanity. He was born on 27 December 1797 and buried near the Dargah of great Sufi Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, but his legacy lives and inspires so many till date.
In the year 1862, a young Rajput poet prodded him to recite any Persian verse with a different theme. Mirza Naushey recited, “My station cannot be discerned by any eye but mine; for my star is so far up that it doesn’t shine bright.” The way he recited it with supreme confidence, even the air seemingly stopped flowing, trying to hear the couplet Mirza Sahib was mouthing, wrote the Rajput.
Not a very great deal of the night sky had been explored those days, the Big Bang theory had not even been heard. But the enigma and the vision of Ghalib was ahead of its time.
Zikr(mention) without fikr(worry) is ordinary but zikr with fikr is extra ordinary. Ghalib was the true exponent of this art. His poetry was full of concern for the society and his philosophies brought impeccable melange of zikr and fikr.
Mirza was the master of creating master pieces because he was astute in using right words at the right time, what is referred to as ‘khayalbandi’.
“The world of Shayari has been be divided into two parts – before and after Ghalib,” once stated famed lyricist Gulzar . The more I read Ghalib the more assured I become of his own words. “Hain aur bhi duniya mein sukhnwar bahut acchey kehtey hain ki Ghalib ka hai andazey bayan aur.
Singer of cult classics like Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Careless Whisper and Last Christmas, George Michael passed away at his home on Christmas day.
He was 53. Born in London to Greek Cypriot immigrant parents, George’s real name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou. Initially part of the popular band Wham! George went on to become a superstar solo artist and his songs continue to be popular till date. But the legacy that George Michael has left behind is primarily that of a gay icon.
He came out of the closet in an era when openly gay celebrities were rare and the LGBTQ movement was still in its relatively nascent stages. Along with Ellen DeGeneres, George Michael was one of the few big stars who openly spoke about their homosexuality in the 1990s.
Michael was aware of his sexuality by the age of 19, and had confided in his close friends and his sister but were advised by them not to reveal the same for fear of upsetting his parents, especially his mother. Finally, the reveal was taken out of his hands since an undercover operation by a police officer resulted in his coming out to the media. But he refused to cow down or be shamed by the same. He spoke to CNN in 1998, “This is as good of a time as any. I want to say that I have no problem with people knowing that I’m in a relationship with a man right now. I have not been in a relationship with a woman for almost 10 years. I don’t feel any shame. I feel stupid and I feel reckless and weak for having allowed my sexuality to be exposed this way. But I don’t feel any shame whatsoever.”
A native of East Finchley, London, Michael first found success in 1984 after forming the band Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley. Their 1983 debut, Fantastic, reached No. 1 in the UK and produced a series of top 10 singles including “Young Guns”, “Wham Rap!” and “Club Tropicana”. Their follow-up album, 1984’s Make It Big, received even greater fanfare. It reached No. 1 in 11 different countries, including in the UK and US, and four of the album’s songs made their way to the top of the singles charts. Among them: “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “Careless Whisper”, and “Freedom”. In 1985, Wham became the first band from the Western Hemisphere to tour China.
In 1987, Michael launched a solo career with the release of Faith. The album spent 51 non-consecutive weeks in the top 10 of the US Billboard 200, including 12 weeks at No. 1. Four of its songs — “Faith”, “Father Figure”, “One More Try”, and “Monkey” — reached No. 1 on the US singles chart. Faith was later awarded the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1989.
In the ensuing years, Michael maintained a steady output of solo releases, including 1990’s Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, a 1991 duet with Elton John called “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, 1993’s Freddie Mercury tribute EP Five Live, and 1996’s Older. The success of these various releases led the Radio Academy to name Michael the most played artist on British radio during the period of 1984–2004.
As a solo artist, Michael sold more than 100 million records worldwide and achieved eight No. 1 singles in the US. His last release came in the form of 2014’s Symphonica.
For many youngsters who struggled with their sexuality, George’s open acceptance was a huge factor in giving them the courage to face the stigma and fight against the ostracism that they faced from society, and they have still not forgotten, as is obvious from the tweets below.
Johnna Artis, 20, first apprentice and Maria Fraguas Jover, 24, rehearsal director at the Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory pictured at the United Nations. Credit: IPS UN Bureau / IPS.
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 23 2016 (IPS) – Young women are beginning to find their voices around issues such as sexism and violence, including through hip-hop, an art-form which has a long tradition of fighting oppression.
Johnna Artis, 20, a first apprentice of H+ the Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory told IPS about how she has learnt to express herself and gained confidence through dance:
“Hip-hop has allowed me to realise that I can speak, and that my voice can be heard, and if my voice can’t be heard, my movements can be heard, so I have multiple ways to talk to people,” said Artis.
Growing up Artis says she felt that she often silenced her own voice, but she has become more confident to speak out, particularly she says, since she has learned that sharing her own experiences can help others.
“I’m talking more and I’m interacting more, so it’s a process, but I’m getting out of the silence,” she said.
Artis, originally from Brooklyn, New York, is one of 25 hip-hop dancers at the conservatory, who rehearse for four to six hours, six days a week.
“(Hip-hop) has been a voice for the oppressed always,” — Maria Fraguas Jover
Artis’ teacher Maria Fraguas Jover, 24, Rehearsal Director at the Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory told IPS that while female dancers like Artis are learning to express themselves through hip-hop this is not how it has always been.
“Hip-hop was created by men, dominated by men, just the way the world has been. It’s a patriarchal society, so really hip-hop is just a microcosm of that.”
“So for (Johnna) to have that voice and use that voice both verbally and physically also opens up for other women to have that voice too and to continue to evolve hip-hop culture,” said Jover.
Hip-hop has a long tradition of addressing oppression, although it has traditionally also been a largely male art-form.
“(Hip-hop) has been a voice for the oppressed always,” said Jover, including Caribbean immigrants in the U.S. and other Black Americans, only historically these have mostly been male voices.
By involving more women, the conservatory has been able to add sexism to the issues they address, added Jover.
“When you come to our performances that’s pretty much all we’re talking about: racism, sexism, misogyny, and we do it in entertaining ways too, to open up the conversation.”
“(Women) having a voice in hip-hop means that we can speak to men in hip-hop and tell them that we don’t feel safe, and you’re not a terrible person but this is what you need to do and it is in your power to change this.”
But she noted that it is not only up to women to address gender-based violence.
“Us having a voice does something, but the people who really do have the power to change their own oppressive powers and mentalities are men, so then that goes to men speaking to other men (too).”
Members of the conservatory attended a special event at UN headquarters ahead of the International Day for Eliminating Violence Against Women which is celebrated on 25 November each year.
The event, organised by UN Women, focused on young people, who due to their age and often less independent economic status, are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence. This is in part because at this stage in their lives they are yet to learn to express themselves or to know what a healthy relationship should look like.
Safi Thomas, Artistic Director and founder of the Conservatory told IPS that adults often discourage young people from having a voice.
“We often silence them, through authority bias, through diminishing their words, by not listening to them, by not giving credence to their words,” he said.
This means he says, that young people can find it difficult to feel safe to speak out when they are experiencing violence “be it bullying, be it abuse, be it sexual assault, be it rape.”
As Artis describes, speaking out could mean simply being able to discuss different ideas about what a healthy relationship should look like.
“Having people talk about different relationships and how we can interact with people is very important because if we only know one thing we don’t know that there is something else possible,” explained Artis.
Finding a voice is particularly important for young women many of whom fear speaking out because society continues to blame victims rather than the perpetrators of sexual violence.
Although young women are increasingly speaking out against gender-based violence, progress is slow and in some cases, countries are still moving backwards.
This past week legislators in Turkey were considering a bill, which could see girls who are victims of rape forced to marry their rapists. The bill was knocked back following protests.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. men, and particularly young white men, are being radicalised in online discussion groups to hold both sexist and racist views, as observed by writer Siyanda Mohutsiwa on Twitter following the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President.http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/speaking-out-on-sexism-and-violence-through-hip-hop/
I was surprised when Singapore based English author and publisher Zafar Anjum Emailed me and invited to attend Seemanchal International literary festival on 17-19 November in Kishanganj, Bihar. I kept thinking for hours that how this festival would take shape in one of the most backward regions of our country. On the other hand I was happy over the idea that festival of literature was shifting from superficial glare of metros and lights of hotels to rural India and amid people devoid of cultural activities.
On 16th November, I board flight from Mumbai to Delhi. At Delhi airport waiting for next flight for Bagdogra I met well known Urdu critic Shafey Kidwai and literary critic Nazia Anjum who is also English lecturer at AMU. We shared coffee and talked about festival and Kishanganj. Shafey was worried if there would be any audience, especially to attend sessions about gender discriminations and role of literature in contemporary society on which various foreign authors had to speak. When we reached Bagdogra airport (West Bengal) we met English author and poet Abha Ayengar, senior journalist Ziya-us-Salam (The Hindu). From West Bengal to Kishanganj our journey was of two hours. During the journey we saw beautiful tea gardens and green pastures. When Bihar approached greenery turned into dust and road into dilapidated state. We were chatting about festival and thinking what was there in store for next morning.
The venue was famous’ Insan school’ ground and stage was set for two days festival. We were around 20 authors mainly of English, Hindi, Urdu and Malay languages from India, Singapore and UK. The venue was packed with local people, students, school staff and journalists who welcomed us with garlands and smiles. In his inaugural address Director of SILF Zafar Anjum said that most of literary festivals take places in metros and resort towns while majority of Indians still live in villages and small towns with this realization, we thought that it was time we should took literature to the grassroots. The festival which begins with panel discussion on ‘Reclaiming humanity through literature’, continued in equal zeal and participation of audience for two days. In the festival Singapore based journalist and author P N Balji, Director of British Council inn East & Northeast India Debanjan Chakrabarti, Chief for Commercial and Business books at Penguin Radom House( India) Milee Ashwarya, Singapore based fiction writer Jayanthi Sankar, Singapore based Malay language writer Isa Kamari, journalist Percy Fernandez who contributes to The New York Times and South China Morning Post, Hindi author and professor at AMU Dr Kamalanand Jha, Rheea Mukherjee, Abrar Mojeeb and participated and interact with audience.
It was enriching experience that at grassroots India people were thirsty to meet authors and discuss literature, understand aesthetics and share their understanding about socio-political situation. There were two book stalls and people were crowded around to purchase books of their choices. I was glad that along with local readers regional MLA Master Mujahid Alam had bought my novel ‘Teen Novel’ and asked me to autograph the copy. Later, I come to know that Alam was one of the toppers in the University and was an avid reader too. Writers from abroad and different parts of India were excited and overwhelmed by the love for literature and discourse they found in rural India. All of them expressed desire that rural India needs more and more such and other literary festivals and they will attend without hiccup or hesitation.
LAHORE/SIALKOT – The nation is celebrating the 139th birth anniversary of national poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal with traditional zeal and fervour at Iqbal Manzil Sialkot (the birthplace of the Poet of East) today, November 9.
The Iqbal Day dawned with special prayers in the mosques for the peace, national integrity, prosperity and development of the country.
Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal was born on 9 November 1877 in Sialkot, within the Punjab Province of British India (now in Pakistan). He died on 21 April 1938 in Lahore, Punjab, British India.
Pakistan government officially declared him the national poet.
Iqbal Manzil’s caretaker Syed Riaz Hussain Naqvi said that the main birthday cake cutting ceremony would be held at the Iqbal Manzil where people from all walks of life will participate.
On Tuesday, a large number of people including the students of different schools and colleges and their teachers visited the Iqbal Manzil where Kalaam-e-Iqbal and speech contests were held.
An art gallery captioned “Iqbal Khatoot Key Aainey Mein” has also been established to display 22 old letters besides, displaying more rare books on Iqbaliyat and pictures of Allama Iqbal, his parents and family member as well.
Mr. Naqvi said that these letters of Allama Iqbal were rare and unrevealed, which had been written by Allama Iqbal to his family members and friends as well. These letters were donated to Iqbal Manzil Sialkot by some close relatives of Allama Iqbal and his fans in Pakistan and even in abroad.
In order to pay tribute to national poet and great philosopher, the main program was held at mausoleums of Allama Iqbal and cadets also presented guard of honour to great poet.
To understand Iqbal’s vision, one should go through his address to Annual Session of All-India Muslim League on Nov 29, 1930 when he first time presented Two-Nation Theory. He had dreamt of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the sub-continent, and his dream was converted into reality by Quaid-i-Azam who had spearheaded the Pakistan movement.https://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/pakistan/pakistan-to-celebrate-139th-birthday-of-national-poet-allama-iqbal-tomorrow/
From Johnny Clegg in South Africa to India’s revolutionary poet Gaddar, many singer-writer-rebels chose to defy currents of their time through music.
That Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature is news that has now travelled to the moon and back ten times over. The Nobel Committee chose him as they said, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
It was in keeping with the stated purpose of the Nobel Prize for literature – that the prize would be awarded “to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”.
You could perhaps argue about whether Dylan is a true litterateur at all. But, given the stated objective of the prize, can one actually dispute whether his work was not “in an ideal direction” given that Dylan has sung about peace, about civil rights and other issues that we take for granted today as righteous causes, but which in his heyday were regarded as the contrarian, immature causes of misguided flower-eaters?
Bob Dylan in his avatar as the singer-songwriter has been a hugely influential figure as reactions to his winning the prize proved beyond doubt.
Needless to say, Dylan in his avatar as the singer-songwriter has been a hugely influential figure as reactions to his winning the prize proved beyond doubt.
The world over, the image of the singer-songwriter has been a powerful one. Equally thorough the ages, there have been many other singer-songwriters, many of them rebels who chose to defy the currents of their time through their music.
Before Bob Dylan became widely-known, America was taken in by the singing and lyrics of Woody Guthrie (1912-1967). Guthrie composed his first songs during the Great Depression when he along with thousands of displaced farmers made the journey from Oklahoma to California in search of work.
In later years, he would sing of the inequality of American society even as he became famous for what became a very popular patriotic song, “This Land is your Land”.
In keeping with the best traditions of dissent, Guthrie held fast to his patriotism even if he did not always agree with the direction his country was taking. Guthrie also held fast to his working-class roots even in New York, where he moved and eventually died.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938-1997), a Nigerian singer and songwriter was another performer in the Dylan-Guthrie mould. To Kuti, music served a purpose beyond entertainment. He used it as an instrument of protest choosing to talk about human rights, good governance, accountability and the widespread prevalence of corruption and graft in African society.
The US-based ITT Corporation, which had a chequered history of involvement in a 1964 coup in Brazil and the 1973 toppling of the Allende government in Chile was one of those whom he attacked through his work.
Kuti frequently clashed with the military dictatorship that ruled Nigeria. In 1984, he was jailed for 20 months on a trumped-up charge and hailed by Amnesty International as a “prisoner of conscience”.
Another Dylanesque figure also from Africa is Johnny Clegg from South Africa. Clegg was one of the few performers in apartheid South Africa who defied the racist codes of those times and performed with black musicians.
His songs, many of them reflecting the issues of the leabour classes, did not endear him to the white powers-that-be. Fondly called “The White Zulu”, Clegg continues to comment on social justice issues through his music.
In India in recent times, Sambhaji Bhagat from Maharashtra and Gaddar from Telangana are two popular singer-songwriters who continue to remain active.
Gaddar (born in 1949), the senior of the two, has for long been a popular figure in the Telangana region. Associated with the Naxal movement, Gaddar remained underground for more than four years during the late ’80s, re-emerging in public only in early 1990.
(Video courtesy: FTII Students Body.)
With his striking appearance, lathi in one hand, a black shawl draped across his chest and wearing anklets, Gaddar cuts an impressive figure. His songs are usually about the lives of the downtrodden and are often performed in public meetings by Gaddar himself.
Originally known as Gummadi Vittal Rao, he took his name Gaddar from the Ghadar movement and party of Punjab.
Originally known as Gummadi Vittal Rao, he took his name Gaddar from the Ghadar movement and party of Punjab. While age and a murderous attack in 1997 have slowed him, Gaddar retains his zest for life and continues to fight for the causes he believes in.
Bhagat, a renowned Dalit activist who has publicly acknowledged his debt to Gaddar has composed many scathing songs about caste inequality and the inequality of the economic order.
With his group, the Vidrohi Shahiri Jalsa, Bhagat has performed throughout Maharashtra, singing about casteism, state oppression and the tendency on the part of Dalit leaders to enrich themselves once in power, forgetting the promises made to the community.
In 2014, Bhagat composed two songs for the acclaimed Marathi film,Court, that featured the travails of a singer-songwriter, modelled on Bhagat himself.
The singer-writer is an essential perhaps in every society. As someone who belongs to the society and is also able to observe it as an outsider, he serves as a reminder that society has a responsibility to all its citizens. By choosing to remind society at regular intervals with their words, the singer-songwriter performs an important duty.
In the words of Tukaram, a singer-songwriter-rebel from an earlier time,